Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Sparks

HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
4 stars
Sparks may have come late to the concept album party with their 2009 
album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman, but theatricality has always 
been essential to Ron and Russell Mael's oeuvre, from composer and 
keyboardist Ron's deadpan demeanour to Russell's sprite-like enthusiasm 
onwards. This is more apparent than ever throughout the first of UK 
date of the siblings Two Hands, One Mouth tour. As the name suggests, 
the duo leave themselves unadorned either by band-mates or onstage 
scenery, occupying a simply-lit black box space instead. The pair have 
even penned a lasciviously-inclined theme song, which plays as looped 
pre-show music sounding like a choir of Oompa Loompas.

Ron Mael enters alone to tinkle out a teasing overture of snatches from 
Sparks' greatest hits before his brother finally comes on sporting a 
tweedy outfit suggesting a silent movie director turned gamekeeper. The 
piano-based sprawl across selected highlights from a forty-year 
back-catalogue that follows makes it plain that Sparks' raison_d’ĂȘtre 
is warped  show-tunes that mash-up Gilbert and Sullivan, Noel Coward 
and Brecht and Weill with a wilfully wordy pop-art chutzpah.

While Ron remains seated for such a glorified lounge-bar cabaret, 
Russell swoops both physically and vocally across the stage. For 
excerpts from the Ingmar Bergman album, Ron dons a beret for a 
spoken-word routine as Bergman himself. This Town Ain't Big Enough For 
The Both of Us could be a template for The Associates' Party Fears Two, 
while an extended Beat the Clock sounds like Suicide playing a gay 
disco. The song's urgency even encourages Ron to leave his keyboard to 
indulge in a brief front-stage shuffle before they finale with their 
new song, Oompa Loompas to the last.

The Herald, October 22nd 2012

ends  

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